Never, Ever Give Up!

Hey everyone!  This will just be a short post with a very inspiring story/video for you guys.  A little update with me:  After a vigorous job search (and interviews) I’ve finally landed a full time job!  No more part-times for this little lady.  I’m giving myself a solid two weeks or so to get into the routine and find a balance for working, errands, and writing/blogging.  My posts will probably be a bit more sporadic for a while.

As for this video, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard a story so inspiring.  The message?  Never, ever give up!  No matter what you’re doing, be it writing, job searching, or getting into shape, just keep moving forward.  🙂

(Also, I may or may not be a Yogi who found this exceptionally heartwarming and inspirational.)

All the best to you guys!

Letters of Note

On which Hemingway puts the beatdown on Fitzgerald in a letter.

If you are like me, then you love hearing what people have to say to each other.  Admittedly, I have on several occasions turned the music off on my headphones and listened to conversations around me.  (Really, the things people say in public are astonishing!)  I also belong to the small group that laments the downfall of good old-fashioned snail mail letter writing.

Which is probably why I fell in love immediately with Letters of Note.  From the website itself:

Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos. Scans/photos where possible. Fakes will be sneered at. Updated as often as possible; usually each weekday.

So far there are 752 letters on the website, and I’ve yet to reach 100, I’m sure.  Several letters appear by fantastic writers including JRR Tolkien in regards to being English,  Kurt Vonnegut on being a POW at Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five), and most deliciously Aldous Huxley to George Orwell on 1984(Orwell) compared to Brave New World(Huxley).

All of those are interesting reads, as well as plenty others on the site that don’t involve authors.  However, there is one letter in particular that I wish to share with fellow writers.

Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald had requested Hemingway’s opinion on his novel Tender Is the Night, and boy does Hemingway let him have it.   However it’s not all about put-downs or insults.  Hemingway gives Fitzgerald some very sound writing advice.

And if I haven’t convinced you to read this letter yet, here’s just a small excerpt:

For Christ sake write and don’t worry about what the boys will say nor whether it will be a masterpiece nor what. I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.  -Ernest Hemingway

(So stop reading my blog and go read Hemingway’s letter!)

What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen?

Recently I’ve been running into this advice more and more often.   You ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that could happen to your character?  And then you make that happen.

People love this!  They use this advice at every turn possible.  While not terrible advice, I don’t really agree with it.

I blame the snarky little girl in me that wants to retort with “Well…an asteroid could hit the planet and annihilate all life, and since this isn’t a sci-fi story, then there would be nothing else to tell.”   Really though, that’s a little much.

I know they don’t mean to completely destroy your character, making them plunge deeper into darkness without having any positive things.  Even if your character spirals into an abyss and dies there, you at least need to give them hope for something better.

But no, my problem with this age-old advice, is that it’s too expected.  As a reader (and perhaps this is magnified by also being a writer), I often think about what will happen next to the characters I’m reading about.  I’ll sit there and ponder, “how terrible would it be if this happened !”  And then, of course, it does happen, and it is the terrible!  Yet, it’s still predictable.

I will admit, sometimes it is best to throw the worst at your characters, but I think it’s vital to mix up the formula.  If your story needs some extra malevolence, try throwing in a twist for your characters.  They got the promotion and raise so they can afford the rent (finally)?  That’s great!  But what if their workplace nemesis did too, and now they have to work together?   Or maybe it isn’t one big thing that goes wrong, but a lot of little things that add up.

While it’s definitely good to put your characters through tough trials, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to ruthlessly torture them with the worst that life has to throw at them.  Switch things up!  And try to do what best fits the story you want to tell.  It’s our job to tell the story in its entirety, relating both the ups and downs.

Happy writing!

Writing for Yourself vs. Writing For Others

This week on Sunday Versus I’d like to discuss how I view writing for yourself, as opposed to writing for your readers/audience.  Specifically I’d like to focus on creative writing instead of blogging, writing articles, or non-fiction writing.

To start off, I’m going to direct you to a great article called Why You Should Write First for Yourself.  If you’re in a rush it basically breaks down 3 reasons to write for yourself.

1. It releases you from the temptation to entertain.
2. It allows you to be honest and transparent in your writing.
3. It gives you a chance to communicate your unique message.

Those are three major points that, as writers, I think it’s important for us to keep in mind.  Sometimes we can be swept away with ideas of writing the ‘next big thing’, or find ourselves falling for a genre-trap just to get our feet through the door.  Have you guys seen all the supernatural/vampire novels being published?  It’s in high demand, and what a lot of publishers are looking for provided your writing is edgy, or the story is full of page-turning drama.

And hey, if you’re writing a supernatural novel with action and tension, and you’re taking your time to do it right, then that’s great.  Just make sure you aren’t rushing it.  Take your time to tell the story that you want to tell.  A gripping can’t-put-it-down novel is great, but is it best for what you want to say?

Too much these days I feel like it’s all the rage to write gripping, fast-paced, page-turners. From Dan Brown to Suzanne Collins and J.K.Rowling.  What happened to savoring a well written novel with delicately laced layers of meaning?  Where every word serves a specific purpose?  Why isn’t that popular?  I know why.  It’s because we live in a world where we can connect instantly to people around the globe, where nobody can be far enough ahead of each other, and you can never have too many things on your list of things to do.

So maybe that is where the theory that if we want our writing heard, we must write for the readers, comes from.  After all, if we have a message to say, a story to tell, we have to do our best to get out into the world.  Perhaps that’s the mindset you have to be in to want to write for your readers.  Wake Up and Write For Your Existing Readers is an article that promotes that way of thinking.

In a way, I can understand it.  The majority of what I write, isn’t written with a certain message in mind.  It isn’t written to be read by the masses.  In most cases my current writing is me practicing, playing with vocabulary, characters, settings, and style.

But when an idea comes along, that you can’t help but believe it’s meant to be heard by many, why wouldn’t you try to write it in a way that readers will warm up to?  It’s still you controlling how the story and the message turns out, even if you tweak it here and there for readers.

For me, though, it does make a difference.  Yes, I want to write something that people can relate to and enjoy.  I will have an editor and beta-readers for my first completed MS.  I’ll take into account what they think will help improve my novel–But only if I agree.

I don’t write to transform the world or other people. I write to help transform myself.  With each piece of writing I work on, I learn more about myself and take away much more than I think my readers will.  I admit, even this blog was created a bit selfishly.  I encourage discussions and opinions from readers not just to motivate your thinking and writing, but also to broaden my own knowledge and views.

Most of the time when I browse other peoples blogs, I feel so inexperienced in comparison.  Although I may not have the most original or informative topics to post about, I hope through talking to others on this blog, that at least one of us will walk away with just a bit more insight on writing.

So, on that note, I’m going to end this by asking: Who do you write for?  Am I too harsh on those who write for others, or should we be balancing both sides in our writing?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Git-R-Done

This two part-blog post will consist of first, an anecdote from high school, and secondly, a lesson I’ve been learning while writing.  As it’s been established in this blog, I am quite wordy. So if you aren’t in the mood for one of my high school stories, go ahead and scroll down and start reading the third paragraph after the picture.  

The year was 2008, I was a senior in high school, and very unhappy about it.  My high school had this program called Running Start which allowed juniors and seniors to take classes at a college down in Vancouver, Wa to get both college and high school credit.  As soon as I was a junior I kissed my high school good-bye and never stepped on campus again until I was forced to return for a single class the last semester of senior year.

In order to feel less foolish about going to the high school for only one class, I enrolled in three: Current World Issues(formerly Current World Problems, but our school decided the world didn’t have Problems, it had Issues.  Also, my required class),  Advanced Drawing and Painting, and Home Economics?  I can’t remember the last one because I dropped it two weeks in, it was some sort of homemaking/baking/cooking class though.

Ironically, that’s the class I wish to talk about.  You see, I lived in a very small, very conservative, very, for lack of a better word, hick town.  People wore cowboy hats and cowboy boots, they drove monstrous trucks that I probably am not tall enough to even get in, and they talked in a southern accent, obviously confused about geography because we lived in SouthWest Washington State.  They also participated in rodeos, and went huntin’ and muddin’ and cow tippin’, because only weird people pronounced ‘ing’.

But-back to my Home Ec class.  I had no friends in that class, which was unfortunate because the teacher was my friends mom, and she was really cool. However, that didn’t make up for being stuck with two hicks as my partners.  I don’t want to sound mean, these two guys were actually nice to me, but we just didn’t have anything in common, and it was clear neither of us felt like we’d make great friends.  So it was neutral, they talked to each other and I was just there.  Story of my life.

About the second week in, we were learning how to make pies.  Surprisingly the guys wanted to make it, so I just sat there and read directions as they crafted the masterpiece.  It wasn’t until I saw the pie come out of the oven, and someone took a picture, that I realized I had just helped in the making of a Git-R-Done pie.  As in, the slogan was right there, ON the pie.

It even made the yearbook. (Sorry for the bad quality, but if you look hard you'll see it!)

Of course, at that time Larry the Cable Guy was pretty much the new Shakespeare as far as half of my high school peers were concerned.  So “Git-R-Done” might as well have been our high school motto.  In fact, I’m not entirely sure they didn’t change it the year after I left.

Regardless, my snooty high school self (I’m not going to lie, I was a tad supercilious in my high school days) was so over being in that class at that point, so I dropped it, and never looked back.

 

Which brings me to the present.  Despite having the shiny new writing program I talked about in my last post, and fresh determination, I haven’t been making as much headway in my novel as I had hoped.   And I think I’ve finally pinpointed what the problem is.

It’s a vague case of not being able to turn off my inner editor as I write.  Up until now, I’ve only written short pieces.  I’ve been able to do minor edits as I progress through a story, without that holding me back from continuing on in my writing.  It’s like giving out little sweets to my inner editor.  However, with this novel, if I so much as stop to feed the inner editor, then my writing falls to shambles and it feels so much more difficult to get back on the writing horse.  I get paranoid about showing vs. telling, then I have to completely rewrite sections.  And I know this is what is going to happen anyways, multiple times, guaranteed.

However, completely re-writing and editing isn’t what I need right now.  What I need, is to just sit down, duct tape the mouth of my inner editor, and get my story onto the page, no matter how juvenile a form it takes.

I’m hoping this blog post will help writers just starting out, like myself, or at least serve as a reminder to everyone more advanced in their writing careers than me.  Edits and re-writes are there for a reason, but as I’ve said before, you can’t edit what isn’t on the page.

So, I’m going back to my not-so-country roots to remind you all to:

GIT-R-DONE

How Not to Play the Social Media Game

It has come to my attention that in the world of writing, it’s all the rage to hop on any and every social media bandwagon.  Every writer is constantly looking for an in.  A way to promote themselves and their writing, and hopefully to catch more than just a few straying eyes.

I understand that prospective editors/agents/publishers are looking for someone who already has a fan base.  Sure, your writing chops will always be looked at first, and given priority.  But it’s like brownie points all around if you can actively market yourself and your writing to the masses.

So we start a blog, we start an author’s page on Facebook, open a twitter account, throw in a dash of google+(even though we have no idea what we’re supposed to do with it), and start ritually gathering four leaf clovers and pennies.  The more, the better!

Except, well, not.

I’ve searched out other bloggers on WordPress that I enjoy, ones I can share comments with, talk with.  I’ve also been concentrating on blogging and producing(hopefully) interesting posts.  Oh, and there’s this little hobby of mine, called writing, that I’ve put a lot of effort into.  With all of this hubbub I’ve been neglecting the poor Twitter account I started along with this blog.

A few days ago after a particularly long period of neglect, I logged on to see that one of the bloggers I had connected with on WordPress had mentioned me in a Tweet.  I was so excited I immediately tweeted back, only to realize he had sent that five days before.  With how often some people are on Twitter, I had no idea if he’d even remember tweeting that, which left me thinking.

Is it bad form to wait so long?  Will it make people think that I’m lazy?  Or worse, that I don’t care enough to update them?  If I only post updates about my blog, and not about my life, will people think I’m just shamefully self-promoting?  Will they think I’m boring?  If people think I’m boring, will that affect how they read my writing? Am I expected to tweet and tag other people?  Will they think I’m just trying to con them in promoting me?  Am I shallow to think that that’s what I should be doing to get my name out there?

Don’t get me wrong, social media outlets are great…if you can use them.  But what if you’re terribly forgetfully, or just plain apathetic about them?  Is it worth it to have a Twitter or Facebook page if you only update it once a month?    I would say no, just because that’s one more loose string your name is attached to.  I think readers and the audience deserve something that is at least decently kept.  With how many connections we make online these days, I think that unless you’ve REALLY done well creating a platform, the more quiet you are, the less people will care to listen.

My advice?  Start slowly with one type of outlet until you’re comfortable with branching out to something else.

I’d like to hear what you guys think about it though.  Do you think it’s worth it to have an author Facebook page or a Twitter account even if you rarely use it?

Side note: Right after I wrote this, I realized a blog that I follow posted this: How to Effectively Use Twitter for Authors  Why didn’t this happen before my Twitter lapse?  In her post she has a link for 8 Twitter Tips for Authors, that she guest posted on another blog.  I’d recommend checking that article out for some great tips, if you’re struggling with it like me.  Also, feel free to post your own tips, as well as articles on this topic.  Any social medium tips are welcome, blogging, facebook, twitter, etc. 

Forcing vs. Flowing in Writing

In my experience there are two ways to write.

Example 1. You frantically scribble away on the nearest napkin as inspiration strikes you at a very inopportune moment, and you’re left with a smudged copy to store away for the next month before you’re inspired enough to revisit it.

Example 2. You sit down at your desk and stare at the computer screen until your fingers begrudgingly begin to type.  Before you know it you have a very, very, rocky draft that vaguely resembles the scenery you meant to describe, and is left as such until you force yourself to edit it.

Pretty obvious which one is ‘going with the flow’ writing as opposed to ‘forced’ writing.  What isn’t so obvious?  Which one produces better writing.

I have arguments for both styles.  Ultimately I think it’s up to the writer to decide a certain combination of the two that works for them personally.  But- here are my thoughts on the matter.

Flow.  Everyone has had that lightning bolt of inspiration hit them.  It doesn’t even have to involve writing!  There’s a moment, where all of a sudden, things become clear, and you know what you have to do and what you want to do.   So you go and just do it.  That’s what happened to me when I went and saw the movie Hugo.  It inspired this short story.  And I’m pretty happy with the result.   The words just seemed to flow from out of my fingers, and I barely had to think about what I was writing.  I believe it’s this natural, raw inspiration that produces the most fluid and honest writing.

But if you only write when you’ve caught the lightning bug, those spurts can be few and far between.  Even if it produces some of our best work, we can’t completely rely on it.  Sometimes we have to hunker down and treat writing as what it really is: hard work.

Forced.  This is where we struggle, as writers, to produce our stories.  Every decent writer needs to spend time on their writing.  It’s like clocking in hours at a job.  Even if you don’t want to, or don’t feel like it, you need do it.  Why?

Because you can’t edit and perfect what isn’t on the page. 

This is especially true when you’re in it for the long haul.  Short stories and Flash Fiction are wonderful for the strikes of inspiration.  But when you enter novella and novel territory, more often than not there will be days when you force yourself to write the story, even if it isn’t flowing out of your fingertips.  It might not come out exactly as you want, unlike some of the spur of the moment stories, but you can always go back and edit.

So, if you’re like me, and just starting to realize you want to be serious about writing, then find that balance.  Be ready to find inspiration in unlikely places.  And if that fails, don’t be afraid to sit down and write against the current.  Take your own writing seriously.  Don’t let if fall by the wayside just because the words are struggling with you.

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